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Four Decade Club: Not as many players as we'd originally hoped will be joining the club in 2010.
by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
April 8, 2010

It happens less frequently than the Olympics, Presidential Elections, World's Fairs, or Leap Years, but certainly more frequently than Halley's Comet, and just about as frequently as the U.S. Census. Every ten years, we get to induct new members into Major League Baseball's Four Decade Club.

About 11 months ago, I wrote in great anticipation about the surprisingly large number of players getting ready to join the Four Decade Club. That list included Ken Griffey, Jr., Omar Vizquel, and Randy Johnson from the 1989 Seattle Mariners; Tom Glavine and John Smoltz from the 1989 Atlanta Braves; and Gary Sheffield, Tom Gordon, and Jamie Moyer from other teams.

It was later brought to my attention that Rudy Seanez was also on the list Ė Seanez played for the 1989 Cleveland Indians for five games, then played only eight games total between 1991 and 1993, and missed all of the 1996 and 1997 seasons before becoming a regular from 1998 to 2002. Seanez has been out of the majors since 2008, but he pitched at Triple-A Salt Lake City in 2009, and apparently hasnít given up the ghost on getting back to the majors. Good luck Rudy!

Rudy Seanez aside, 2010 has rolled around and low and behold, that list has taken a major hit. Ken Griffey, Jr. has already joined the club, and Omar Vizquel will join the club once he finally appears in a game for the White Sox. With Jamie Moyer listed as the fifth starter on the Phillies, he will be joining the club by the end of April (teams donít always get to their fifth starters in the first couple of weeks of the season).

And that is pretty much that. Randy Johnson and Tom Glavine both officially retired from baseball this off-season (as if they didnít even care about the Four Decade Club). John Smoltz is technically not retired, but he is also doing color analysis on Braves games. Gordon, who only got into three games with the Diamondbacks last season (for a total of an inning and two thirds and an ERA of 21.60) and hasn't officially retired, is currently a free agent with no prospects for joining a major league club.



Gary Sheffield
Which brings us to Gary Sheffield. Sheffield had a decent year for the Mets in 2009, playing in 100 games with an .823 OPS. His ten homeruns seem meager until you realize he tied for second on the team in that department (again, in 100 games). Sheffield has, apparently, never been a particularly pleasant guy, and wonít likely be snagged by a team just to have him around the clubhouse. Nevertheless, is some small market team needed a cheap but significant boost, it seems like Sheffield would be a good add-on (looking at you, Oakland A's).

Stay tuned . . .

As a final aside, the four-decade phenomenon happens far more in baseball than all the other sports combined. Nevertheless, there are still some interesting examples to note. In hockey, Gordie Howe played in the NHL from 1946 (at the age of 18) until 1971, then played for the World Hockey Association from 1973 to 1979 before returning to the Hartford Whalers for the 1979-1980 season (at the age of 51!). Wayne Gretzky, who debuted as an 18 year old in 1978, just missed the club by retiring after the 1998-1999 season.

In basketball, this feat has not, I believe, been accomplished. The closest thing I can think of is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who played from the 1969-1970 season to the 1988-1989 season. Of course, with the popularity of players coming into the NBA straight out of high school, somebody who made his debut in the late 1990s will likely still be playing come 2020.

In football, too, we have seen very few examples. George Blanda played from 1949 to 1975, though he spent his final nine years as a kicker. Disappointingly, Brett Favre debuted in 1991, so he won't be a four decade guy if he plays next season (technically, he played in 2010 during the playoffs). Of course, Favre just became a grandfather, so he'll have that on his resume if he keeps playing.











Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at asher@baseballevolution.com.

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